Sunday, September 14, 2014

How to be a Smart Flyer?

Early for my 95th hop, I am bored. Security was a breeze and the over-compensation for potential traffic snarls was frankly unnecessary. So looking at the travellers around me got me thinking. Back in September 2006, I had no clue about how to be a smart flyer, a la Clooney from Up in the Air. Obviously, even today, I am nowhere close to his 10,000,000 miles target, but I have a few miles under my belt and an array of experiences to share. Some of these need to be in a manual of air etiquette which every air pax should read even if they are veterans. Needless to say, there are many which my fellow countrymen do need to follow on domestic as well as international travels. This is especially in light of this video about stereotypical Indian flyers (English Captions available, mostly NSFW). 
So here goes: Your true journey starts the moment you get your ticket purchase confirmation. It ends when you cross the threshold of the airport arrivals building. During this time you will rub shoulders with people from all over the world with a variety of experiences and lifestyles. Most you may never see again. If I cross paths with you, I frankly don't want to remember you. The only reason I will remember you is if you forgot to be a decent human being during those few hours. And as I look back at the myriad of annoying faces from my various travels, I wish you had followed one of the following basic rules and not made yourself a memorable asshole.
Your seats: Look for your airline record locator and go select your seats on the airline website. Most airlines allow you to do this easily the moment they sell you the ticket. Nothing annoys me more than a family of four wanting to sit next to each other but who haven't bothered to get this sorted out till they board the aircraft. I will NOT give up my seat which was selected 2 months in advance for your lazy arse. In case you are separated, you can obviously spend a few hours apart. I have lived away from my family for 10 years now. 10 hours apart will not kill you. Trust me.
Your check-in: Buying your tickets and selecting your seats is different from your final check-in. Use the power of Internet. Get this sorted out in advance so that you don't create a long queue at the airport.
Your cabin baggage: Travel smart. Think of the things you pack as things that you cannot live without for the next few days. Everything else can be purchased at your destination unless you are headed to Mars. If you are going to Mars, you are on the wrong flight already. Also obey the rules for cabin baggage. I will NOT put my backpack under the seat in front of me because you have an oversized cabin bag. That legroom is my reward for packing smart, you on the other hand deserve the innermost circle of hell.
Your check-in baggage: If you are tiny and frail, do not carry more bags or weight than you can lift yourself. Trolleys at the airport are not supermarket trolleys or things that you use to run over people with. A frequent flyer once let me in on a secret. Get bags with 4 wheels on the base. This way you can push them around instead of endangering yourself and people around you.
Your check-in counter: Weigh your bags at home and conform to the airline limits. Else you will have to open them to shuffle things around and everyone will get to see your pink bunny underwear (no, I don't judge, even if I did see this in the luggage of a man traveling alone) while you shuffle things around. Also, if you are on a multi-hop flight, ask the person where you have to pick up your bag next. As a general rule, if you clear immigration (after an international flight), but have one or more hops to go, you will have to collect your bags and check them into the domestic leg of your journey. Forget this and you will find your bags lazing around in a city different than the one you end up in.
Your clothing: You are traveling and not going to a fashion show. You are also going to be inside a tin can and sharing space with lots of flammable fuel. If your fashionable clothes can catch fire, you will regret it in case of an emergency. Also if it takes you 5 minutes to get out of that fancy garb that sets off the metal detector, you are being an ass and holding up the queue.
Your security check: This one is a no brainer. Instead of ogling the girl in front of you, empty your pockets. As a rule, the moment I get into the line, I put the contents of my pockets into my bag. The laptop is ready to be pulled out. Ask in advance if they want you to takeoff the belt and shoes. Also, the security folks see idiots trying to smuggle liquids through their scanners daily. Save yourself and the people behind you some grief. Put all the liquids into the check-in bag. You may not be a terrorist but you definitely are an asshole if you have a bottle of liquid that holds up the security line. In India, they stamp your cabin bag's tag. Make sure you ask for the tag at the check-in desk. Don't add to the stress of security check by forgetting this. It may seem pointless, but it's their job so don't annoy them by not having it on you.
Your words: If you are a single brown Asian male, you know better than to use the words like bomb, terrorist and guns in the airport. If you are not one, but happen to be traveling with one, make sure you do not bring these things up for discussion with your fellow brown Asian colleague. A cavity search is not fun and he definitely doesn't want one just because you can't shut your yapper.
Your looks: Mainly applies if you are not really really white. Yes, racial profiling or whatever you want to call it exists. I used to get secondary security checks almost every time when I had a mustache. Even in freaking Canada (one the other hand, in Canada, it meant I got through the process a lot sooner than my colleagues). Try not to look too tired and shave that facial hair and mustache if you can!
Your Gate: Most airports show your gate at many locations and provide floor plans of their terminals. Study these in advance and get there on time. Don't keep a plane-load of people waiting because you are trying to score some duty free or you are stupidly lost.
Your boarding: Look at your boarding pass. It will tell you a zone of boarding. If you are at the gate then don't clog up the boarding queue until and unless your zone is called out. If in doubt, ask in advance before they start boarding. Your standing in the way is not going to ensure you get a better seat. Your crappy seat stays crappy and you deserve it.
Your overhead bin: If you haven't read the 'Your cabin baggage' part, read it again. Seat maps are available online for almost every airline. Know the general location of your seat. Once you get there and you have to put your bag into the bin above, be courteous. Let a few people behind you to go forward. Also, place your bag in such a way to maximize the space for the rest. Don't spread out as if your bag is the king of the overhead bin.
Your pre-takeoff: The captain will ask all ground personnel to disembark. This is generally the cue for you to stow away your luggage, lock the tray table, pull your seat upright, buckle up (leave this for later if your aircraft is being fuelled) and to stop yapping on your mobile phone. There is a reason why your seat has to be upright. In case of an emergency, the brace position requires you to take support of the seat ahead of you. So a reclined seat may lead to injuries to your fellow passenger. Any loose baggage/laptop/table can become a projectile which can maim or kill people in case of an aborted takeoff. Just on this trip, I saw this smartly dressed woman who would not stow away her massive laptop and couldn't stop yapping on the mobile phone even after push-back from the gate. Lady, you weren't impressing anyone. If you are so important, fly in your own private jet. Else follow the instructions of the stewardess. You deserve all the scorn that the stewardess felt for you.
Your seat once on board: Read that safety instruction card. It may save your life and also stop your ignorance from costing someone else's life too. Remember the closest emergency exit may be behind you. Memorize that "behind you" bit.
Your seat recliner: This is the most annoying of all. While the airlines tend to make the seat legroom minimal, you add to the agony of the fellow passengers by reclining the piss out of the recliner. I have flown about 30,000 miles without reclining my seat. I did not die of sudden seat reclining syndrome. You won't either, trust me. It doesn't add much to your comfort and it makes you an asshole if you add to the discomfort of the person behind you. If reclining is imperative to your survival on the flight, be courteous and recline the seat slowly. I have seen a person get a nose bleed after the seat in front of him was whacked into his face. Needless to say, the person in from was an asshole. Don't be that asshole. Also, sit up when the meal service begins. It is one thing to recline your seat when everyone is supposed to be sleeping and an entirely other thing when you keep your seat reclined when everyone is supposed to be eating.
Your seat belt: Put it on and leave it on. You can always loosen it a bit if you are that fidgety person who can wrap a leather belt around your waist but the airline seat belt seems like a python trying to strangle you. The have been many instances when airplanes have encountered turbulence (remember China Airlines Dynasty 006 to LAX) The passengers wearing seat belts suffered the least injuries. Plus if the aircraft were to experience explosive decompression at 36,000 ft, the seat belt may be the one thing that may save you from a free skydive to earth.
Your nails/smelly shit: This one is for women. Painting your nails in a closed tin can 36000 ft in the air is a sure shot way to earn the hatred of people around you. You may be into huffing chemicals, I am not. I don't care if you are the Miss Universe. If it were legal and possible, I would really love to defenestrate you. As for people in general, refrain from carrying and opening things that have a very strong smell in the cabin. You may love it, it may as well trigger an asthma attack for someone else. 
Your stewardess: Is not your servant. Be nice to her. Try and be a gentleman or a lady. Get out of the way or offer to help if possible. On a reverse note, stewardesses, please do not stereotype. Not all Indian men are after your bum. There are some sensible ones too.
Your landing prep: Just before the captain begins the final descent, he or she informs you about the same. This is the time when you turn off your devices, put on the seat belt, get the seat back to upright position and lock up the tray table. You are not a baby in diapers who needs to be told by the cabin crew to do all this again. When the captain says he is starting the final descent, he is not joking that you need to await instructions from the cabin crew.
Your gate arrival: No one gets off the aircraft until the aircraft reaches the gate and they open the aircraft doors. So unfastening the seat belt before the aircraft stops and trying to grab your luggage makes no difference. You may have spent the last 2-12 hours sitting in the tin can. If you survived that, you can survive another 5 minutes. Be considerate to the passengers who are connecting to another flight especially if your flight arrived late. Even if you were inconsiderate inside the aircraft, be mindful outside. If you are confused or disoriented, step to a side before figuring out things. Don't get in the way if some poor sod running towards his flight. 
Your moving walkway/escalator: This is another no brainer etiquette. If you plan to plant your plum arse and let the machine do the moving, stay to one side. Most airports follow a stand to the right, walk to the left rule. Follow this at all costs. Passengers with children, rein in those rug rats. If your prince or princess is in my way, I am going to judge you as a shitty parent.
Your baggage claim: This is a standard problem with people with families and especially common with passengers in Indian airports. You are not the only ones trying to claim your baggage. If you are a party of more than one, just put one of your representative close to the conveyer belt. Also,your trolley needs to be at least 5 feet from the belt. That space is for people not your Highness's trolley. If you have kids, remind yourself that the belt is not a jungle gym. Keep that rug-rat away. I am trying to pull a 20 kg piece of luggage off a moving belt. The last thing I should be worrying about is if this will crush your damn kid.
I know most of these make me sound like a grumpy traveler. I am usually a nice person if you come up and talk to me. But I have had my share of crappy experiences like holding out a barf bag for a fellow passenger as we came in to land in Amsterdam. But, I do follow these things myself in an attempt to make the experience of flying tolerable to ones around me. None of these makes you a smart flyer, but puts you on the route to be a decent traveler. To close this off, here are two pro-tips heard from a smart flyer:
Your lost baggage: If you are flying in for some important meeting, make sure you have a change of clothes in your cabin baggage. Just in case your checked baggage gets lost or delayed, you can still focus on the job at hand.
Your jetlag: This one applies only if you can sleep on a flight. While the airline has its own schedule, I suggest that if you are crossing timezones, switch to the timezone of the destination airport the moment the aircraft takes off. If it is night there, sleep, if it is day, stay awake. Follow this for each leg of the journey. It may just alleviate the jetlag a bit or a lot as in my case.
That's about it for now. With nearly 200,000 miles under my belt, all I look forward to hitting my magic number of 1,000,000 miles. Hope you do too! Happy flying.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another one for 2013... (yes, thesis is done)

A pious mouth and a pious heart don't always co-habit the same man.

As a baby I couldn't tell politics apart from poop. Apparently I still can't.

He is a happy man who treats a setback like a river with a bridge and gets over it quickly.

It's the interpretation of an action and not the intention behind it that matters.

On an average, everyone knows a lot about something and nearly nothing about everything else. On an average that also means everyone is a blithering idiot who knows nothing.

Remember this. They will tell you that there is no better feeling than having achieved a difficult goal. You will get to feel that world is at your feet, like after having climbed a big mountain and that the vistas offered are to be enjoyed and appreciated. And you should do all this because it is your moment. It is your chance to bask in glory. But this is what they won't tell you. This moment is fleeting. You will turn and see another peak in the distance or even the stars, egging you towards a harder and more arduous challenge. This is your true chance. This is the moment where you will say, "Meh!" to one of the views and turn to the other. The way, which you are left facing after that 'meh', is what will matter the most.

The true measure of the greatness of a warrior, in possession of a great weapon, is the restraint he shows towards using that weapon.

Use your charm or hint at harm. But get it done!

You can do as you please as long as someone with the power to stop you stays pleased.

You think therefore you exist. But to live, one must also feel.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

And one for 2013

Took over 6 months for these ones (also not my best lot either)... But am also writing my thesis in the meanwhile...

Yesterday was the best day of the rest of your life

I am most certainly not the smartest man alive. But that is not sufficient for you to assume that you are any smarter than me.

I don't doubt your intelligence. It's your stupidity that I am more worried about.

I don't like being right all the time. I'd rather see you be right once in a while.

If wishes were horses wouldn't your mind be a stable?

It's not about the tool. It's the tool holding that tool that makes the difference.

Listen to everything you say to someone else, for in those words you will find the best understanding of your own prejudices.

Love thyself and people will call you Narcissus... Love not and they'll blame you for having low self-esteem!

Man is the biggest figment of his imagination.

You got to smite me harder before I kneel.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The 42nd post turns out to be "The nerd’s guide to surviving Twilight-4"

a.)    *Spoiler Alert* This article is full of spoilers. If you want to watch the movie for its pure unadulterated romance, 1.) Never come back to this website 2.) Why are you still reading?
b.)    Yes, I went to the movie on my own volition. No, I am not crazy. I guess it was my way of trying to tag along with a gal who is way out of my league (she’s a 9,9 on brains and beauty) and yes she wanted to watch Twilight. Girl’s allowed to have weaknesses. And yes, the jury is still out on the matter of me being crazy.
c.)     This article is for a very select audience. The kind that knows who General Custer is and that Avatar is not necessarily about a blue Pocanhontas and who have read this blog so far.
d.)    This happened.
e.)    But don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

The usual riff-raff:
The backstory since I assume you haven’t seen the rest (Nor have I but I was given a full synopsis during the pre-movie adverts). Vampire meets girl. Girl meets werewolf. Vampire meets girl again. Wedding bells and a fast forward to a baby that just falls short of being a chestburster from Aliens. Nah, this is a romantic movie. Or so you’d think.

The game for surviving 116 minutes of Twilight craziness works as follows: Identify the maximum number of elements from the movie that violate physics, break real legal laws, identify historical references and or shamelessly copied movie references. Very much like in-game achievements that you collect. So here is a list of opportunities for collecting the achievements in-game.

Some survival pointers: Don’t buy any soda/pop. Also make sure the popcorn is salty. The sweet version might just send you into a diabetic coma from the ensuing romance (which I felt was boringly mechanical. Then maybe I am dead within. Who knows?)

Scene: Opening credits.
The scenes are from a cold isolated place. Bear Grylls shot some of his scenes in one of these locations. No he actually didn’t. But let’s imagine he did.

Achievement challenge 1: How long can you survive in this place if you were a.) left without any tools and b) weren’t a vampire c) had to run a distance before your hands start shaking.

Achievement challenge 2: Some of those are not outdoors nature scenes but more like what a chestburster would see as it claws out of its victim. How many?

Scene: Bella wakes up.
She’s hungry and superstrong. Cue the scenes where she and her vampire hubby run through the forest looking for prey.

Achievement challenge 3: Which movie has the similar scenes where the characters run really fast like Flash? (hint: it has to something to do with Kung Fu).

Bella almost kills a man (I am guessing he was a certain famous Scientologist) who is minding his own business a.k.a. rock climbing. Then she decides against it and jumps off the ledge back into the forest.

Achievement challenge 4: Name the scientologist and calculate the velocity of impact when Bella hits the forest floor.

Bella then goes back and instead of killing the doe she kills the cougar that is about to bring dinner home to its cubs.

Achievement challenge 5: Which US state believes that cougars are nuisance wildlife?

Scene: Back at the coven lodge.
Bella finds out that she’s given birth to a creepy baby (no seriously, that spawn of the devil better be a bad CGI job else we are doomed) and that her ex-boyfriend werewolf has ‘imprinted’ on her. It took me a while to figure out what imprinting means and that explained why Bella throws a half-hearted fit.

Achievement challenge 6: Estimate the creepiness factor involved with first dating a woman and then her daughter (whom you will actually see in her diapers)

Bella is annoyed that the werewolf nicknames her precious daughter after the Loch Ness monster.

Achievement challenge 7: Name the American equivalent of Nessie. Also for added bonus, correctly locate the coordinates of Nessie’s home.

Scene: Their new home and some overdue snogging. Don’t expect more, it’s a 12A movie.
The house has appeared in the middle of nowhere. Sure they may be vampires but…

Achievement challenge 8: Suspend your disbelief that power, water and sewage handling magically happen in the house in the middle of nowhere and the forest rangers don’t notice the sudden appearance of the house.

Scene: Enter stage right Castor.
Castor/Aro, all blackened from the events at the End of Line club goes yadda yadda. Doesn’t matter what he says. He is the evil guy as usual.

Achievement challenge 9: Daft Punk it. Agreed Tron Legacy was lame (not). Maybe there will be another post about that later. But if you can play the Castor soundtrack in your head, you just survived a whole four minutes more. Added bonus if you can recall the distraction called Olivia Wilde on that really white couch.

Scene: Merchant of Venice
Someone has disappeared. Not before they leave a cryptic message that asks Bella to find witnesses to put in harm’s way before the snow sticks. Why not just pencil the date on the calendar?

Achievement challenge 10: Wonder why Bella will take another 20 min of the movie before figuring out there is more to the message in the rest of the book. And the fact that it proves to be actually worthless eventually.

Scene: Meet the family
Up north-er still? There’s the weird old aunt who packs a 10,000V spark generator instead of paws. This Taser-aunt is not going to be on the favorites list for that chestburster which has by now grown into a non-CGI horror kid, but still retains the creepiness just like baby-fat.

Achievement challenge 11: What would happen if a Taser is triggered in a shower or more relevant to the movie, when the hand is stuck in snow? Actual question: Which movie shows one of the protagonists catching the Taser in his face?

Scene: Enter the Avatar
The last Airbender’s scene with equivalently bad CGI set in Egypt suddenly shows that the pyramids survived the events of Transformers 2. In the real world the Airbender movie actually trailered before Transformers 2. That also happened. Surreally.

Achievement challenge 12: The courtyard was originally used for another movie involving scarabs. Which one?

Scene: Sue Storm meet n00b Vampire.
So Bella is a shield. Nick Fury is going to be very annoyed. But their paths wont cross fortunately. She’s projecting her shield but is nowhere good as Jessica Alba in (the answer unlocks Achievement 13). Too bad Bella also never skimps down to her bare essentials like Ms Alba does.

Achievement challenge 14: Even X-men (the movie version) had a character that could disable mutant superpowers. Where is this mutant kept in the movie?

Scene: Campfire with war stories
An odd collection of vampires have gathered. And they are sharing stories. One mentions two battles. One at the Little Big Horn. Judging by the lack of laughter in the theater, this was an American in-joke lost on outsiders. Unless they have watched the movie with Amelia Everhart and Sacagawea called (answer unlocks Achievement 15). Another battle is mentioned. Guess the date for unlocking Achievement 16.

Scene: More random stuff
I don’t care what it is. I am just trying to find my moxie while contemplating about Amy Adam’s pretty nose. Yeah, I am still stuck on Achievement 15. But get pulled out by the sudden appearance of a Scientologist’s annoying daughter (in a movie that is). She’s all grown up and is messing with people’s heads. I guess screaming at Martians (in which movie? for Achievement 17) was not enough.

Scene: Final battle
The battle royal or so it seems. Peace negotiations fall through. And some nice head-lopping action follows. Why is Dakota Fanning’s character allowed to loiter on the battlefield? Couldn’t they have in the last so many months filled with campfires come up with a proper battle strategy? Why is the Airbender punching vampires when he could convert all the frozen ice into a flying rain of sharp head lopping shards? Even Voldemort knew better in the Order of the Phoenix. But they eventually behead the annoyance that is Castor/Aro.

Achievement Challenge 18: Identify one more good vampire who could have ended the battle just on her own. Hint: She creates whole holodecks right in your mind without requiring a three-finger mind-meld and face touching (Achievement Challenge 19: which was the last movie to feature this?)

Scene: The rude shock or enter Alice (no Umbrella involvement detected).
The battle never really happened. Castor was shown what would happen through a hand-meld futurama. This is the worst part of the movie ever. (The romantic bits excluded.) For a well rounded movie, someone in the protagonist’s camp has to die. More the better. The sense of loss is greater and the value of victory is better valued. But the battle itself dies a lame death post-simulation. Aro drops the ball literally. Aro now knows exactly how and when each of his compatriots dies in the battle. Given that he spends most of that time standing around doing nothing, he could have manipulated the events to his favor. Even (answer unlocks Achievement 20) does a better job with just a sports almanac As for the victorious Bella: All those folks did was to round up a bunch of dumb vampires who couldn’t even work out a proper battle strategy and kept bitching about Alice who disappeared. The shameful bit is that Alice is actually working her pretty behind off to find proof that the child is not a chestburster, umm.. I mean an immortal child. And the very same Alice also manages to stave off a head lopping filled fight and brings the standoff to a peaceful conclusion without a single head rolling. Well except the one of that stupid cousin from up north, who creates the whole mess in the first place. I guess, justice is finally served.

Scene: All’s well and it’s happily ever after.
The movie is finally over. Whew! If you are anything like me, you will have spent most time recalling the best bits of the (16 at least) movies that unlock achievements of our little game. You’d have never really noticed the movie in front of you during this time. Congratulations! You just survived the end of Twilight. Final achievement unlocked!

Now go home and pop in an old DVD of a Buffy re-run and remind yourself: a.) vampires are not real. b.) if they are they usually die with a stake through the heart c.) and even if not, they can’t loiter around in broad daylight. d) It is still illegal to ‘imprint’ babies in all 50 states and pretty much across the whole world.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Nearly 10 months on... another 10...

A healthy dose of fantasy can always alleviate reality. However it is only prudent to not get addicted to it.

I have nothing to offer. Except maybe a well-exercised brain. And I'd rather you didn't eat it.

If lottery is a tax on stupidity, then a lot of us are guilty of evasion.

It is a sign of a fruitful journey when you pick up many artifacts on the way, some you place in your backpack and others you commit to memory.

No wonder the Tyrannosaurus Rex is always shown as an angry creature. With those tiny arms, what would it do if it got a belly itch?

Smarties don't make you smart. But they don't make you smart either.

Take note of the moments when you trifle an accomplishment and when you overvalue a trifle, for these are the moments when your relationship with greatness takes a turn.

The only thing that you can have everything of, happens to be nothing.

There are two kinds of people. Ones who believe that when you break a rule, you should be punished. And the ones who believe that when they break a  rule, they should be punished.

When god shuts a door he opens a window. But you should seriously doubt his intentions if you don't happen to live on the ground floor.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another 10 after a really long time...

All of us start life thinking we will always get to say FTW. Most of us end up living life saying it in reverse.

At times it is best to not prick the bubble which some people tend to live in. You might not like what comes out.

Be generous with compliments and stingy with criticism, but always wash them with truth before dispensing.

It is ok to fence your boundaries with your intolerance to contrary ideals. But only as long as you intend to grow beyond them.

It must be hard being the ocean. The whole world spills its sorrows into you and you have no one to turn to. Even the merciless sun beats down on you. You simmer, the growing mass salt stings your insides. You seethe, you rage only to retreat within yourself.

Life insurance is all about betting on your own death and hoping that you lose.

Most of the time, I hate deadlines. But there is nothing more satisfying than watching one charge at you with its fangs out and you calmly wait for it to make it into the crosshairs, then put a slug through it and smugly watch it whimper to a slow death.

The concept of equality is like a barb-wire fence between the oppressors and the oppressed which makes the concept of a fence-sitter implausible.

The difference between confidence and determination is the gap between what you perceive yourself to be capable of and what you are actually capable of.

Yeah I always considered him a level-headed bloke. Ground-level actually.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

And that takes us past 250...

I like vegetarians so much that I eat the animals that eat up their food.

Life is like baseball. Even when you are down two strikes facing the best pitcher and getting to second base would take an act of God, you dream of hitting a home run. When you manage to get your home run, it is against the worst pitcher who has all the bases loaded. And lastly, just when you think the best pitcher can never be hit for a home run, the worst batter on your team manages to hit one. No wonder the Americans love the game.

Never make an offer that will be refused.

Problems are like angry elephants. Staring at one in the face or from a mile away changes our perception about them.

So you tweet on Twitter. Does that make you a twit or a twat?

There are no bad photographs, just bad photographers...

Try being nice to others even if it is just to get the adrenaline rush of stepping out of your comfort zone.

Unrequited love is the best kind of love, for in its 'what-ifs' one can dream a million lifetimes instead of one.

Wish I had a talent... of gold...

You are always on the top of the world. You just need to see it that way.